[Or maybe I'm just suffering from hurricane fatigue and I'm the one who can't see the urban jungle for the hurricane-felled trees.]
The Truth: Every city, large and small, piled high like Manhattan or barely a wide spot in the road, wants the poor to go somewhere else. And don't come back.
The rest of the truth, or some of it anyway: Nobody has enough money to rebuild New Orleans, and even if they did, it's going to take longer than a day. Longer than a year, even.
Maybe Bill Gates does, but he's not offering. FEMA could have had more money, not enough to rebuild, but maybe enough to help out a little more, but with the gutting of FEMA's coffers and management during the Creationism of the Department of Homeland Insecurity that's gone. And with all that money bleeding into and out of the War on Iraq the Terrible, no other government department has anything left to spend on unimportant stuff like people.
Dress Rehearsal: Florida, 2004, the summer that one state got zowied by four hurricanes. We get hit by hurricanes a lot, so we're better prepared than most, but still ...
Some Random Lessons, had y'all been paying attention
- It took four months to get a new roof on my building, and eight months before the damaged units were habitable. This only happened because many, many non-English-speaking people, pesumably illegal aliens but no one was asking, came here and worked 14-hour days, 7 days a week. Those few hours they weren't working, they slept 5 or 10 or 15 in [often uninhabitable] houses or apartments or condos.
- I live in what is probably a lower-middle-class neighborhood. The houses are elderly, but without the historical value that comes with great age. Many were not-exactly-cheaply built, but they were the affordable housing of their day. Now they're filled with retirees on fixed incomes, who have lived in them all their adult lives. And far too many of them still have blue roofs and plywood windows.
- A lot of the houses that got destroyed in my city were ramshackle old houses in very poor neighborhoods, lived in by people who were just barely getting by, who had absolutely no money for upkeep. Most of these have been razed now, and the new "starter" homes being built cost 3-4 times the median household income for this area. None of the former inhabitants of these neighborhoods can afford to come back to them.
- Some of the older, stable, middle-class neighborhoods that were wiped out are on the water [that figures]. These newly-cleared waterfront lots got snapped up by speculators and developers who are putting up big expensive condos and trophy houses.
- Some of my better-off friends had their houses back in livable condition in about a year, but only because they paid for contractors and entire crews to come down here from places like Michigan fer-petes-sakes, paid their wages and housing.
- The building materials just aren't there. We can't grow the trees fast enough to make all those 2x4s. We can't mine the gypsum fast enough to make all that drywall. Just about six months or so after the hurricane whizzed through here, I broke the toilet paper holder in my bathroom. I couldn't even replace that. There weren't any to be had.
- It's been nearly two and a half years, but there are people here who have enough money to continue paying their mortgage and to rent or buy their trailers from FEMA, but they're still living in those trailers. These aren't mobile homes either, they're camper trailers. Some of these folks are still fighting with their insurance companies [who isn't?]. Some of them can't afford to rebuild to the new codes [and the law requires them to]. Some, I have no idea.
- A math problem for you: multiply all this by the fact that New Orleans is [was?] 6 or 7 times more populous than where I live.
- Have you forgotten Mississippi?
- And Alabama?